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Silver Ferns determined to finish the job this time

Published: 8:05PM Monday September 17, 2012 Source: ONE Sport

If they are tempted to relax with a one-game lead in their Constellation Cup series against Australia, the Silver Ferns need only reflect on recent history for motivation.

The New Zealand netball side have not beaten their trans-Tasman rivals in a three-game series since 2004, when the then-world champions swept the Aussies aside in Christchurch, Palmerston North and Hamilton.

They seemed on the verge of another famous victory last October after upsetting the Diamonds 49-48 in Perth and then had two chances to secure an elusive series triumph. They weren't up to the task, losing 44-51 in Adelaide and 41-44 in Melbourne.

Having laid that Hisense Arena bogey well and truly to rest now, the Ferns have returned to New Zealand with home advantage on their side. This time, they're determined not to slip up.

"Last year was probably not the best year we've had," confirmed shooter Maria Tutaia, the star of last night's 54-52 win in Melbourne.

"We didn't want to go through that again this year, so it was [a matter of] making sure it didn't happen again.

"[Winning] was a huge statement for us - it was really key to win this first match. We didn't want to go in thinking it was do or die in the next [game]."

In a scrappy performance from both sides, the Kiwis exhibited outstanding composure to overcome the pre-game loss of captain and defensive kingpin Casey Williams to injury. That determination, no doubt, prompted Diamonds coach Lisa Alexander to invent a new word in praise for their performance.

Alexander claimed the Ferns had "out-Australianised" the Australians.

"I'm not sure what that means," laughed NZ coach Wai Taumaunu. "We put the most experienced line-up we had, without Casey, on the court."

Perhaps Alexander could just as easily have described her team as being "taumaunu'ed", since the Kiwis showed the same uncompromising attitude that their coach made her trademark during her days as national team captain.

Tauamuanu's demeanour certainly seems to have rubbed off on her charges as they turn a critical eye on their display last night - starting with Tutaia.

"When you're in the zone, you're in the zone," she shrugged. "That's something I like to grow every game and I've probably been inconsistent this year with it.

"It's a matter of making sure, this international season, that I bring my 'A' game."

The coach was similarly reserved.

"I thought our error rate on our through-court was probably a bit higher than I would have liked," noted Taumuanu.

Everyone's looking nervously at Williams, wondering whether she'll be right to take the court at Auckland's Vector Arena on Thursday.

"We've still got a long way to go until Commonwealth [Games] and the world champs, so I'd hate to ruin it now and not be there later," she cautioned.

Those tournaments are still two and three years away, so clearly Williams, who missed the previous trans Tasman series with foot/ankle problems, is now being ultra-cautious with her body.

But there's now an air of confidence that this outfit can beat their closest rivals, with or without their oncourt leader.